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Department review of use of schools outside of classroom hours will lead to stronger, safer communities

A review of guidelines which would enable school buildings to be used outside of normal hours will be positive for community groups and youth organisations, according to Fine Gael TD for Cork East, David Stanton.

Deputy Stanton successfully got a motion on the subject passed by the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party and subsequently raised the matter in the Dáil chamber with Ministers.

David Stanton said: “Fine Gael wants to strongly encourage and support the use of school buildings outside of school hours by community and youth clubs and organisations.

“This would be of great benefit to a wide range of local groups, especially in areas where there are no community halls, community rooms and sports facilities available to the community. This will lead to stronger, safer communities.

“I was pleased to receive confirmation from Minister for Education Norma Foley on foot of a further parliamentary question that I tabled recently, the Department are to review guidelines that provides information for schools considering requests for use of school buildings outside of school hours.

“The Department will consult with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of schools and other government departments which engage with the community and voluntary sectors.

“A survey of a sample of schools regarding their experience in engaging with community and recreational groups seeking to use school property will also be carried out.

“Following the review and in consultation with school authorities, the guidelines will be updated and all schools will be notified of the changes.

Deputy Stanton continued: “The guidelines on the use of school buildings outside of school hours which were issued in 2017 encourage the use of local schools, but in many instances these school buildings are not available. 

“The doors are locked at 3 or 3.30pm and fantastic sports halls and community rooms are locked up all evening and night, making them inaccessible to the community.

“I therefore welcome confirmation that this guidance will be reviewed, so communities can make the most of these facilities for sports, recreation and other purposes.

“The Minister also confirmed that the policy of the department is to support the use of school premises and facilities outside of school hours for community, recreational and education-related purposes.

“Perhaps the department could run an awareness campaign to engage with school managements encouraging them to make their facilities available and to keep communities informed.

“I would also call on boards of management of schools to be open to requests from community groups and youth organisations regarding the use of school buildings and facilities afterhours.

“The Government should also consider making some financial supports available to schools to encourage the opening up of school facilities outside of school hours,” David Stanton concluded.